Monday, March 23, 2015

American Western Art 19th and 20th Century. The 2015 Blog Challenge Reveal

Among the Sierra Nevada Mountians.  Albert Bierstadt. (1830-1902)   Dover Publications, Inc. 
The theme for my blog challenge is American Western art from the 19th and 20th Century.  Imagine the explorers. adventurers, and early settlers, seeing the Western area of the Northern Hemisphere for the first time:  the vastness of the land, miles and miles of untouched forests, plains, unusual rock formations, and the peoples who lived there, the Indians.

The artists who depicted what they saw were the early photographers of the West, but of course they could and did embellish what they saw through an artists eye and point-of-view. 

In 1883 the historian, Frederick Jackson Turner in a lecture, entitled, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History."  His premise was that the existence of an area of free land had defined American society with the essential peaceful occupation of a largely empty continent and creation of a unique American identity.  Another view of this frontier is William Cody, also known as "Buffalo Bill."  His Wild West was one of conquest, taking the continent from the Indians.  "The hero of Turner's story is the farmer who overcame the wilderness with the ax and the plow. The hero of Buffalo Bill's story is the scout who overcame the Indians with the rifle and bullet."

Through these paintings, you will see both points of view, with much sympathy and admiration for the Indians. I am using the term "Indians" since that was the term used during those years.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Autism is a Puzzle

Red Car, Blue Car

Red Car, red car, red car: blue car, blue car, blue car. The small blond-haired boy bent over the toy cars, intently arranging them in the same pattern again and again.  As his mother watched, her face a mixture of fatigue and questioning, she asked herself the same questions she had asked herself so many times.  Why the intense fixation over certain toys; the meltdowns, screams over unseen terrors; no response to hugs; so many unfixable behaviors, and most difficult of all, no words, just sounds and small grunts to indicate desires.

As she watched, an image came to her.  There is a deep, dark space between us; his thoughts cannot reach me.  I cannot comprehend what he wants, what he thinks, how to help him.

The past few years came rushing back, their joy at having their first child, but as time went by, the realization that something was very, very wrong.  Tests, doctors, therapists, psychologists, always searching for answers, a way to make Matthew whole, but there were no answers, her marriage slowly disintegrating from stress and lack of attention.  Her husband away at work for longer and longer hours.

As she watched the cars being lined up, her small son seemed to take no notice of her.  She tried crossing that deep, dark space again.  "Matthew, Matthew, where are you?" He looked up.  "Mama?" he said.


I wrote this for a writing contest a few years ago thinking of my grandson and others who have autism.  My grandson is high functioning, not the Matthew of this story, and is mainstreamed in high school where he is a sophomore. He is a sweet boy, funny, affectionate, but has problems with social cues and difficulties with math particularly.

Some facts about autism:

  • Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys
  • Autism prevalence figures are growing
  • Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
  • Autism costs some families $60,000 a year
  • Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism
  • There is no medical detection or cure for autism

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ukraine: the News is Not Good

The Ukraine is an embattled country now and each day the news is worse as Putin masterminds the takeover of the whole country bit by bit.

I learned recently that my father was born in what used to be the capitol of the Ukraine, Kharkiv.  And as many emigres to the United States in the 1920's who endured many hardships in Europe with the end of World War I, he never talked about his past, or we would get little snippets of information in which, being young, we never were that interested. He changed his name which even made the getting the facts harder.  But as we grow older we are now more curious about our parents and their stories.

Although my grandparents were Estonian, our father was born in the Ukraine when it was part of the the Russian Empire, so the old maps of the Ukraine do not show the borders of Ukraine which was an independent country following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Ukraine has endured untold hardships including the "Holodomor" 1932-1933, the systematic starvation by Stalin to erase the rise of Ukrainian nationalism, when 7 million people died of starvation.  And many in the United States during those years, denied what was occurring.

Now as our world leaders are debating what to do, how to help, actual help is not forthcoming. Words will not do it, force will.  Notice what Jordan, Egypt and Turkey did in the last few weeks to mitigate threats to their countries.

I know the situation is complicated, but I wanted to write a few lines about my support for my father's birthplace.

February 28

In the Wall Street Journal today is a photo of a bridge near Red Square where opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov was gunned down which  authorities say was a contract killing.  One day before his planned march in opposition to Vladimir Putin's government. In the background, you can see Red Square all lit up with outlined lights.

The cruelty and oppression learned during the 70 years of Communist Rule has not been forgotten.

Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev is a book about "the surreal heart of the new Russia," a superb description of the Jekyll and Hyde of Russia today.